FOREWORD: Last night I watched a documentary about The Clash’s headman Joe Strummer. It portrays the man who brought The Clash to life, dominated London’s underground punk scene, exported it to American soil, and then destroyed it for personal reasons before moving onto other projects. More than the background story though, the main theme throughout ‘The Future is Unwritten’ is hope. Johnny Depp, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Bono, Antonio Kiedis, Flea, and many others attest that this one man’s thousand lives have inspired them in their own. More information can be found on the official website.
“IN WHICH PART OF LIFE DO WE FIND THE TRUTH. IS IT IN THE BEGINNING, THE MIDDLE, OR THE END? OR IS IT ALL QUASI-TRUTH?” – JOE STRUMMER
Valparaiso, Chile: A distant roar trickled down the hilltops. Drums. Cheering. The sound of dancing. It was the eve before New Years eve and I found myself amidst a group of travelers bent on discovering the musical source. The problem: no one knew the narrow streets and cable cars that connected the bay to the bohemian neighborhoods above. Draining box wine into plastic cups, we wandered with ears pushed to the air, air pushed from our lungs in long, selfless laughs. Our group was not the only one. The entire city was a party. Packs of youth clicked heels on the cobblestone, strangers greeted strangers wishing them the best, and just like molecules float continuously and dangerously close to a kiss the crowd moved in a spontaneous, electric unison. One endless crowd overpowered the streets like a river running uphill. Tributaries of faces poured in from all directions. Policemen observed sternly from sidewalks. No cars entered the flesh zone. The collective consciousness had decided to take 2010 out for a test run and not even time itself could protest the riotous sequence of events that would follow.
“I APPROACH EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE WITH A PUNK ROCK ATTITUDE. IN FACT, PUNK MEANS EXEMPLARY MANNERS TOWARD YOUR FELLOW HUMAN BEING.” – JOE STRUMMER
We pushed into the epicenter. Drums. Cheering. The sound of dancing. Closer. Louder. As the Dutch, Germans, and Americans threw themselves into the street party and flirted in the universal language of eye, the lone Canadian and I shouted back and forth on the edge of the drum circle. A few times my ear almost touched his mouth, and viceversa. Empty bottles were beginning to accumulate in the gutter. A hollow wine box rested at our shoes. Though my friend had a decade of life experience over my quarter century, the conversation flowed like the crowds, the alcohol, the night whose end was imminent but seemed like a dream. We had discovered a mutual bond: punk rock.
“I NEVER KNEW WHO THE SANDINISTAS WERE OR WHERE NICARAGUA WAS. THE LYRICS OF JOE STRUMMER WERE LIKE AN ATLAS. THEY OPENED UP THE WORLD TO ME, AND TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO CAME FROM A KIND OF BLANK SUBURBIA.” – BONO
Punk rock changed our lives.
For him, it was the first real sound that emerged from the synthesized 80s. It was a raw energy that freed music from the commercial whorehouse that was beginning to establish itself as the norm, put the ridiculousness of Reagan-era politics into the sweaty microcosm of garages and mix tapes, and taught him that everyone is an artist, that creation is not the monopolized privilege of those with money, perfect voices, or narrow constraints over what art should be.
I, on the other hand, came of age in punk’s more marketable aftermath. Ska was skankin’ the radio. The ridiculousness of the Bush-era politics didn’t concern me in middle America. Gangsta rap TDKs were the only mix tapes being swapped in order to by-pass the Parental Advisory Explicit Content fiasco. I didn’t rage against…anything. Punk was a casual hand-me-down from my brother, like jeans with holes in the knees, then became the soundtrack to my teenage skate and weight training sessions. My punk lifestyle was watered-down in adolescent narcissism, not burning with a youthful idealism waiting to take on the world.
Only recently have I realized punk’s very real influence on who I am today. Bands like Operation Ivy and Rancid were my first exposure to people who spoke out against society’s quiet acceptance, forcing me to recognize at an early age that the rest of the world was not waxed in my same middle class privilege, that injustices exist whether I chose to see them or not, and that I could change my reality at any time. Punk rock was part of my awakening.
“SO NOW I’D LIKE TO SAY, PEOPLE CAN CHANGE ANYTHING THEY WANT TO, AND THAT MEANS EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. PEOPLE ARE RUNNING ABOUT FOLLOWING THEIR LITTLE TRACKS, I AM ONE OF THEM, BUT WE ALL GOT TO STOP JUST FOLLOWING OUR OWN LITTLE MOUSE TRAIL. PEOPLE CAN DO ANYTHING. THIS IS SOMETHING I’M BEGINNING TO LEARN. PEOPLE ARE OUT THERE DOING BAD THINGS TO EACH OTHER. IT’S BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN DEHUMANIZED. IT’S TIME TO TAKE THE HUMANITY BACK INTO THE CENTER RING, AND FOLLOW THAT FOR A TIME. GREED, IT AIN’T GOING ANYWHERE. THEY SHOULD HAVE THAT IN A BIG BILLBOARD ACROSS TIMES SQUARE. WITHOUT PEOPLE, YOU’RE NOTHING. THAT’S MY SPIEL.” – JOE STRUMMER
The Clash was one of the Canadian’s favorite bands. He recommended the documentary “The Future is Unwritten” as a way to add profundity and historical background to the nameless love I’d felt for punk music for so long but had been unable to place into the category of true appreciation—where it belongs. Now I recommend it to you.
For more information visit the official website.